September 16, 2012: Earth’s Earliest Mummies in Peru, Glacial Lakes on Mountaintops, and More

The mummy of King Tutankhamun was laid to rest over 3,000 years ago.  Interestingly, Egyptians were not the first to embalm their dead and turn them into mummies.
The mummy of King Tutankhamun was laid to rest over 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, Egyptians were not the first to embalm their dead and turn them into mummies.

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!


Even though it’s been officially illegal for decades, rumors and reports of cannibalism from Indonesian Papua persisted well into the 1980’s. Author Carl Hoffman has been spending time with the Asmat people, investigating the 1961 disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, youngest son of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller disappeared when his boat capsized and he swam to shore. A Dutch member of his crew who stayed with the boat was later rescued. Hoffman plans to return to New Guinea to continue his research. Listen here.

Sea levels have changed dramatically throughout the ages. As the Earth’s plates shift and volcanoes erupt, what once was a sea bed may now rise well above the ocean surface; where man once made his home, may now be under a hundred feet of water. This is the case for Spitsbergen Island, in Norway’s arctic archipelago. The island, which was once at the bottom of a deep ocean, boasts remains of plesiosaurus, which Emerging Explorer Jorn Hurum is able to excavate for four weeks per year. The long, frigid winters keep the research season short for Hurum, who also has to keep an eye out for roving polar bears. Listen here.

National Geographic began as a society dedicated to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge”  of the world’s cultural, historical and natural resources. The society has diversified its objectives in the last 124 years, but the Education Department continues to stress the importance of geographic understanding of the planet. Daniel Edelsonvice president of National Geographic Education and “geoliteracy Czar,” tells Boyd that with our increasingly global community, it’s more important to understand and relate to those far away from us. Listen here.

On Boyd’s recent trip to South Africa’s Londolozi Game Reserve, where he met Tally Smith and many “misunderstood” hyenas. Contrary to what many people believe, the ferocious predator is one of Africa’s top predators and often hunts for itself – but they will steal a meal if it costs less energy to do so. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that Chile’s Atacama Desert, rather than Egypt, was home to some of the planet’s earliest mummies. Listen here.


Part of the job of doing risk analysis of glacial lakes high in mountains is the act of just getting to the lake. So Alton Byers spends much of his time stomping up mountains simply to do his job. As he’s gotten older, the geographer tells Boyd that he’s learned the secret to high altitude success — maintaining the same pace at 5,000 feet that he does at 20,000 feet. Listen here.

For many people in India, the Ganges River is a sacred body of water that provides life for all Hindus. But with water, and land, becoming increasingly important, it’s also a source of conflict. Dan Morrison tells Boyd about how the river can rob farmers of precious parcels of land, only to plant them on their neighbor’s farm downriver. The complex issue of land ownership occasionally turns into a shooting war when age old tensions escalate. Listen here.

When Peru declared the Pui Pui Forest protected in 1985, they did so without knowing exactly what was in the area. So National Geographic grantee, herpetologist Edgar Lehr trekked through the precarious footing of the cloud forest in order to ascertain just how many frogs and amphibians are in the area. And in doing so, he discovered eight species previously unknown to science. Listen here.

Many Americans think of their national parks as the few parcels of pristine land across the country with names like Yosemite, Denali and Arches. But most people would be surprised to discover that there are actually 397 national park units in the United States. Terre Jones, outgoing President and CEO of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts (itself a parcel of the National Parks Service), has been to 213 of them to photograph for his new book, Roadtrip: A Photographer’s Journey to America’s National ParksListen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd tells the story of urban discomfort in a very wild place — a New Yorker goes on a safari and finds himself yearning for the security of the big city. Listen here.


Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.